Last week, leaders met to find a solution to a problem that has created a huge challenge for many young girls in this country. The Ministry of Education is rooting for pregnant girls to continue with their education and not to drop out of school.
Ms Rosette Nanyanzi, the technical adviser on gender in the Ministry of Education, requested that schools provide antenatal care for the girls, allow them to continue with their studies and sit their final exams.
However, her proposal was met with rejection from political leaders. Mr Kenneth Lubogo, the MP for Bulamogi said: “Stopping a pregnant girl-child from continuing with school is not a punishment. This serves to teach the rest that what she got herself into was not good at an early age.”
Ms Lucy Akello, the Amuru District Woman MP, said, “The best I can do as a parent if my child got pregnant at school, is discontinue her first, orient and help her go for antenatal check-ups. After birth, she has to breastfeed the baby and when she is ready to go back to school, I take her back.”
This was disheartening to hear. It should be noted that many girls get pregnant because they have been defiled by some of their teachers, family members and other people, who are supposed to be exemplary, yet they took advantage of their vulnerability and instead violated them. Stopping girls who have found themselves in this situation from studying ends up stigmatising them.
Studies have also shown that the less a girl is educated, especially one who gets pregnant and has a child(ren) to take care of, the poorer choices she will make in life as far as family planning, work, nutrition and taking care of her family is concerned. Education, however, will see her make better choices and have more opportunities to educate herself and live a more fulfilling and healthy life.
The politicians raised concerns about the ministry burdening schools with providing antenatal care for the pregnant girls. They also tasked the ministry to provide more guidelines about the dangers of engaging in early sex as well as punitive action for teachers who defile.
These were genuine issues raised and the ministry should provide answers to them. The provision of antenatal care should not be placed on schools. The guidelines should provide wholesome education on engagement in early sex. The transfer of a teacher, who has defiled a student, or pupil from one school to another, should stop. The Education ministry should ensure that defilers are brought to book to act as a lesson to the rest.
However, at the end of the day, the girls need to be allowed to continue studying. Stories have been told of students giving birth during their final exams.
This is not what we wish for our girls, but it is a better story to hear that a student was able to sit her exams and pass onto the next stage, rather than to hear she dropped out of school at the tender age of 16 and has been left to struggle to raise her child.